The Self-Portrait

The Self-Portrait

A Cultural History

  1. James Hall
  • ISBN 9780500239100
  • 22.90 x 15.20 cm
  • Hardback
  • 288pp
  • 120 Illustrations, 109 in colour
  • First published 2014

The self-portrait has become the defining visual genre of our confessional age, but modern artists are far from the first to have exploited its power and potential ...

‘Beautifully designed … delivers original and engaging interpretations’ – RA Magazine
‘Fascinating, erudite and beautifully produced … ’– The Sunday Times
'There is never a dull passage in this book: the detail is crisply imparted; the content richly arcane at times, but more usually profoundly human; the ideas come freshly coined. Hall manages to retain the intellectual high ground while writing with verve and enthusiasm. It is a creditable achievement, and, like all the best gifts, comes beautifully wrapped, in book production of the highest quality' – Frances Spalding, Guardian Online
‘This is really good art history, intelligent, knowledgeable and fired by ideas’– World of Interiors

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See the full review in the Guardian

The Self-Portrait

In this broad cultural survey, art historian and critic James Hall brilliantly maps the history of self-portraiture, from the earliest myths of Narcissus to the prolific self-image-making of contemporary artists.

His intelligent and vivid account shows how artists’ depictions of themselves have been part of a continuing tradition that reaches back for centuries. Along the way he reveals the importance of the medieval ‘mirror craze’; the explosion of the genre during the Renaissance; the confessional self-portraits of Titian and Michelangelo; the role of biography for serial self-portraitists such as Courbet and van Gogh; themes of sex and genius in works by Munch, Bonnard and Modersohn-Becker; and the latest developments of the genre in the era of globalization.

The Self-Portrait

The full range of self-portraits is covered here, from comic and caricature self-portraits to ‘invented’ or imaginary ones, as well as key collections of self-portraiture such as that of the Medici in Florence. Throughout, Hall asks why – and when – artists have chosen to make self-portraits, and looks deeply
into the worlds and mindsets of the artists who have created them.

Comprehensive and beautifully illustrated, the book features the work of a wide range of artists including Alberti, Caravaggio, Courbet, Dürer, Emin, Gauguin, Giotto, Goya, Kahlo, Koons, Magritte, Mantegna, Picasso, Raphael, Rembrandt and Warhol. Offering a rich and lively history, The Self-Portrait is an essential read for all those interested in this most enduringly popular and humane of art forms.

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